Two students named top presenters at forum

Western Carolina University students Andrew Benton and Aaron Marshall were recognized as having the best presentations during WCU’s inaugural Discovery Forum, an event designed to encourage young people to share innovative ideas for making their communities better places to live, held Monday, April 22.

Benton, a senior from Hickory majoring in history, and Marshall, a junior from Gastonia majoring in athletic training, will be invited to be part of a regional economic and community development conference at WCU on the theme “Connecting to Opportunity: How Regional Networks Shape Our Future” on Friday, Sept. 27.

Hosted by the Office of the Provost and the Honors College, the WCU Discovery Forum is part of an initiative launched by the N.C. State University-based Institute for Emerging Issues. During the forum, nine student teams selected by a special campus committee shared results of their research projects with an audience composed of students, faculty and community members in a series of five-minute presentations.

In his presentation, “Barbed Wire in Heartwood: The Endurance of Appalachian Stereotypes from Horace Kephart to Ron Rash,” Benton described how the fine arts can both perpetuate and dispel myths about people who live in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and proposed a young writers summer workshop as a strategy to help break down stereotypes. His faculty sponsor was Mae Claxton, associate professor of English.

Marshall, whose presentation was titled “Mitigating Bad Aid: The Use of Technological Interventions and Mid-Level Medical Care Professionals to Advance Care in the Third World,” talked about his research into the problem of a lack of continuity in health care in poverty-stricken areas of the world and how mobile device technology can play a role in ensuring consistency of health care. His faculty sponsor was Jill Manners, associate professor of athletic training.

The WCU Discovery Forum is the brainchild of Provost Angi Brenton, who had taken part in similar events downstate and suggested that WCU would be a good place to attempt a pilot run of the successful Raleigh-based program administered by the Institute for Emerging Issues. A think tank devoted to developing leadership and economic development for the state, the IEI created the Discovery Forum to promote young leaders and community interaction.

Members of WCU’s Discovery Forum planning committee, who also served as judges at the event, were Todd Collins, associate professor of political science and public affairs; Thomas Ford, visiting professor of psychology; Bob Lahm, associate professor of entrepreneurship; Lane Perry, director of service learning; Bill Studenc, senior director of news services; and Martin Tanaka, assistant professor of engineering and technology. Brian Railsback, dean of the Honors College, and Manners of the athletic training department also were committee members, but removed themselves from the judges’ panel because of their role as faculty sponsors of some of the presenters.

For more information about the forum, call the WCU Honors College at 828-227-7383.

Andrew Benton (left) and Aaron Marshall were judged to have the best presentations at the inaugural Discovery Forum.

Andrew Benton (left) and Aaron Marshall were judged to have the best presentations at the inaugural Discovery Forum.